DOWNTOWN — Crime in Santa Monica is down 9 percent over this time last year, a drop police attribute to an “all hands on deck” policy that aims to make police a visible deterrent against criminals, officials say.
Violent and property-related crimes dropped from 1,549 between Jan. 1 and June 4, 2012 to 1,416 over the same time period this year.
The greatest drop came in aggravated assaults, which fell by 26 percent from 76 last year to 56 this year, said Sgt. Richard Lewis, spokesperson for the Santa Monica Police Department.
Despite one high profile case at the home of investor Jeffrey Gundlach in which millions of dollars worth of paintings and other valuable items were stolen and later recovered, home burglaries also dropped from 197 by this time in 2012 to 144 in 2013.
Burglaries from vehicles held steady, bumping up just one incident from 371 to 372, Lewis said.
The only category that increased significantly, in fact, was commercial burglaries, which bumped up 24 percent from 62 last year to 77 this year, Lewis said.
Officials attribute the success to a policy that puts every officer not assigned to patrol on patrol duty twice a month, which means dozens more officers on the streets to deter crime.
Officials use the extra bodies to target areas with reported increases in crimes, like Montana Avenue, which saw a well-publicized jewelry store heist in April, as well as the Wilshire Boulevard and Lincoln Boulevard corridors and major shopping areas like the Third Street Promenade and Main Street.
The policy, in place for almost eight months, has been “very effective” in reducing crime throughout the city without increasing overtime and the cost to city coffers, Lewis said.
At the same time, police are receiving training in how to deal with the homeless population similar to that of the six officers that comprise the Homeless Liaison Program, or HLP Team.
Other specialized teams, like the Crime Reduction Team, which targets quality of life issues in Downtown and public parks, and the Crime Impact Team, which looks at beats throughout the city, have also helped put a greater police presence on the ground where it’s needed most, Lewis said.
“We want to be highly visible and proactive, especially on quality of life issues,” Lewis said.
The goal is to bring crime down by 1 percent each quarter, a marked improvement after 2012 saw an 11 percent increase over the previous year.
The changes come as the department explores further reorganization, including a new Downtown division that won ringing endorsement from some City Council members last week.
Much of the specifics depend on the results of a study commissioned in March that will look into the costs and benefits of the 4-10 work schedule for patrol officers, which would have them work 10-hour shifts four days a week.
That comes in contrast to the 3-12 schedule, in which police work three days a week for 12 hours and an extra shift a month to make up the difference.
Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks has been open about her skepticism of the system and has stated that a change to the 4-10 schedule would be more efficient and meld better with other schedules like that of detectives and the courts.
She also believes it will increase the number of officers on the street.
“When you’re here more frequently, even with less duration, there’s more opportunity for community engagement,” Seabrooks said.
Movement in the police department comes against the backdrop of realignment, a state policy that shifted non-violent offenders out of prisons and into local jails to reduce overcrowding.
That, in turn, forced low-level offenders out of jails and onto the streets. Some in the department believe that the release of these criminals contributed to an increase in crime seen in 2012.